Increased Transparency at Knole

Further to Furniture Doctors now using X-radiography, Emile de Bruijn has posted additional fascinating X-ray images of furniture and a painting at Knole.

X-ray of a seat showing construction and upholstery. (National Trust/3DX-Ray)

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About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
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3 Responses to Increased Transparency at Knole

  1. Greg Forster says:

    Interesting; somewhere in an “The Magazine Antiques” they had an article where some Queen Anne/Chippendale pieces were X-rayed; although these were magnificent pieces, the x-ray of the mortises showed what we would consider to be quite crude workman-ship – “saw-toothed” mortise bottom, tenon partly filling space.

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    • Jack Plane says:

      I would be interested to see that article (I tried searching X-ray/mortise/tenon without success).

      The unseen joinery of eighteenth-century furniture often appears coarse to today’s Extreme Cabinetmakers who, as web and print images of their work would indicate, languish over the finish of their mortice and tennon faces. As long as the joints fit snugly, there’s no need to make them particularly tidily; in fact glue will cling more tenaciously to rough surfaces.

      Mortices were traditionally chopped out somewhat hurriedly and not machine made, or carefully drilled out and neatly pared with bevelled-edge chisels as is so often the practice now. I suspect the ‘saw-toothed’ mortice bottom to which you refer is evidence of the use of a mortice chisel. The bottoms of my mortices have a coarse saw-tooth appearance.

      This ‘crude’ approach was calculated: Too much glue in a joint is usually better than too little and the irregular surfaces of a joint provide convenient escape routes and reservoirs for excess glue thus preventing the joint going into hydraulic lock during assembly.

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  2. Thank you for featuring this. Yes the National Trust tries to be a ‘transparent’ organisation :)

    And how fascinating to read about the ‘calculated crudeness of eighteenth-century joinery.

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